Study finds protein critical to breast cancer cell proliferation, migration

Sep 15, 2011

Researchers have found that a protein linked to cell division and migration and tied to increased cell proliferation in ovarian tumors is also present at high levels in breast cancer specimens and cell lines. The protein, dubbed "UNC-45A," was also determined to be more active in breast cancer cells than in normal breast cells.

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston scientists describe these findings and others in a paper now online in the .

"As a result of earlier work, we hypothesized that UNC-45A should be critical in several steps related to cancer cell metastasis," said UTMB professor Henry Epstein. "This investigation confirmed that hypothesis, and also showed us significant aspects of UNC-45A's behavior that were previously unknown."

UNC-45A is what is known as a "chaperone" protein, a molecule that helps other proteins function more effectively. In the case of UNC-45A, the protein is myosin, which can be thought of as a tiny machine that interacts with a long, fiber-like protein called actin to alter cell shape and movement. In the last stage of cell division, for example, myosin and actin proteins pinch the cell tightly about its midsection, finally splitting a single cell into two .

"What we believe is really important in this paper is that increased UNC-45A in cancer cells leads to enhanced myosin and actin activity, which leads to increased rates of and increased rates of cancer-cell invasion or migration," Epstein said. "Those are critical phenomena and could be significant in the development of new therapeutic approaches."

Epstein's group measured UNC-45A's effect on myosin and actin activity by comparing the activity observed in cells from a highly metastatic cancer cell line with that seen in cells from the same line in which UNC-45A production had been blocked. The difference was substantial, strongly suggesting that high levels of UNC-45A drove the cells' high rate of proliferation and invasion of other tissues.

Further exploring the details of UNC-45A, the UTMB team discovered that the protein actually exists in two slightly different isoforms, one made up of 944 amino acids and the other of 929 amino acids. While these two isoforms interacted similarly with myosin, the breast cells' protein breakdown apparatus attacked the 944 amino acid-isoform much more vigorously than the 929 amino-acid isoform; as a result, the 929 amino-acid isoform was found in much greater levels.

"In the , you get a disregulation of the two, because the larger one gets turned over more rapidly than the smaller one, and we can actually see this very dramatically," Epstein said.

Explore further: Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers find clue to stopping breast-cancer metastasis

Nov 17, 2008

If scientists knew exactly what a breast cancer cell needs to spread, then they could stop the most deadly part of the disease: metastasis. New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine ...

LIMK plays a key role in cancer metastasis

Sep 27, 2010

Researchers have shown that LIM kinase (LIMK), an important regulator of actin cytoskeleton dynamics, plays a key role in cancer metastasis. The study appears online on September 27 in The Journal of Cell Biology.

Breakthrough uses light to manipulate cell movement

Aug 19, 2009

One of the biggest challenges in scientists' quest to develop new and better treatments for cancer is gaining a better understanding of how and why cancer spreads. Recent breakthroughs have uncovered how ...

Recommended for you

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

Apr 17, 2014

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...